LOUISVILLE — Willie Cauley-Stein launched himself from the KFC Yum Center floor Saturday afternoon, the basketball in his hands and the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats trailing by a point to gritty Cincinnati.
Bearcats freshman Quadri Moore left the floor, too, his left arm extended skyward, determined to preserve the 24-23 advantage.
When they both came down — Cauley-Stein on his feet, Moore on his backside — it was Kentucky with the one-point lead. The Cats never trailed again.
Cauley-Stein's stat line from UK's 64-51 victory won't jump off the page — nine points, two rebounds, two blocked shots — but his dunk will be shown for the rest of this NCAA Tournament. Probably longer, especially if it ends the way the Cats want it to.
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It was just the latest did-you-see-that play from Cauley-Stein, who has made a habit of them during his three seasons as a Wildcat.
"Doesn't it always seem like he's always the one that changes the momentum with some dunk, in some sort, in some fashion?" said UK teammate Karl-Anthony Towns. "That's something he brings to the game. Any given time, he could give us an energy boost when we're all down. And that's exactly what he did."
Cauley-Stein raised both eyebrows when asked where he would rank it among his collection of highlight-reel jams.
"It might be worse than ol' dude's from Florida," he said, recalling his epic slam this season on the Gators' Devin Robinson. "I don't think they put (Moore) back in the game. It was nasty."
Cauley-Stein was correct. Moore left the court after the play and did not return.
Trey Lyles was the closest Cat to the dunk. As he walked over to congratulate his teammate, he paused to look down at Moore, perhaps just to see if he was still there.
"It was pretty nasty," Lyles said, matter-of-factly.
Andrew Harrison missed it. He was talking to someone on the bench and didn't turn back to the court until he heard the fans erupt.
"I still haven't seen it," he said. "I just saw a dude sitting on the ground."
Dakari Johnson saw it. He said UK Coach John Calipari is always imploring Cauley-Stein to do that more often. But he doesn't see it much in practice.
UK's players have learned something Moore, Robinson and so many others have not.
"Nobody tries to jump with him," Johnson said.
His teammates confirmed that to be true.
Towns noted that he's been "blessed" to be in the same "platoon" as Cauley-Stein, so he's rarely in a position in practice where jumping to block his teammate's shot is even an option.
If he had that choice?
"I would just let him get the two points," Towns said.
After the game, in the UK locker room, Cauley-Stein wore a T-shirt that featured the faces of The Avengers, a group of superheroes with various super powers. He was asked if he felt like an Avenger on that play.
"I like to think of myself like Batman," Cauley-Stein said. "He don't have super powers. ... He's a ninja. He's the Dark Knight. That's my guy. The things he does, that's what I like."
Earlier in the week, Cauley-Stein said he does things like what he did Saturday and people think he's "Superman or something." He said at the time he wasn't.
On Saturday, for a few seconds, it seemed like he was wrong.
"I feel like I might have turned into Superman on that, but I'm just Clark Kent," Cauley-Stein said. "You know what I'm saying? I went into a little phone booth, a little phone booth and turned into Superman real quick."